College lacking nursing teachers

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If good nurses are hard to find, locating qualified nursing instructors seems just as hard.

Officials with Colorado Northwestern Community College-Craig found that out when they launched the nursing program in 2003.

Now down two instructors, they again are facing the challenge of finding people qualified to teach and willing to leave what are often higher-paid, private-sector jobs.

The retirement of Marilyn Bouldin, CNCC's program dir--ector, and the resignation of an instructor left the college with two of four positions to fill. The college began advertising for the vacancies more than two weeks ago and has received one application.

"It's tough, but we usually get more applications at the last minute," CNCC human resources specialist Cindy Halcomb said. "I've never seen a large pool for these types of positions."

The jobs require a graduate degree in nursing, but a bachelor's degree is acceptable as long as the candidate has a written plan to obtain a graduate degree.

Candidates also must have two years of full-time professional nursing experience in a clinical setting.

CNCC's salary range for a nursing instructor is about $35,000 to the low $40,000 level, and is set by the state, which puts college nursing programs at a disadvantage when competing with the private sector, Halcomb said.

"We can't just say a nurse would get paid 'X,' so to lure them to the educational field, we have to beat that," Halcomb said.

CNCC's recruitment problem is mirrored across the state.

According to the Colorado Center for Nursing Excellence, the state's shortage of qualified nursing faculty at its two-year nursing schools is three times the national average; the shortage at the state's four-year schools is nearly double the national average.

A 2004 nursing faculty supply-and-demand study in Colo--rado cited program expansions designed to put as many nurses in the workplace as possible as the reason for faculty shortages.

"Cash-strapped schools lack the resources to attract and keep faculty," the study stated. "The lack of qualified instructors, in turn, is one reason that more than 2,600 applicants were turned away from nursing programs in Colorado in 2003."

CNCC will begin reviewing applications March 10 but will continue to accept applications until Aug. 23.

"We'd like to get the best people we possibly can," Halcomb said. "At CNCC, we pride ourselves in having a very personable and caring environment. We want someone to come in and genuinely care about students and fit into the department, too."

Two bills before the Colorado Legislature could, if passed, offer relief to college nursing programs.

The Nurse Faculty Loan For--giveness Program would forgive student loans that nurses incurred to earn a master's degree if they agree to teach for five years.

Another bill would give full-time nursing program faculty members $10,000 a year to supplement their income.

"Between those two things, maybe it will help a little to attract faculty," Bouldin said.

Christina M. Currie can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 210, or ccurrie@craigdailypress.com.

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